Edgar Degas

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Edgar Degas
1834-1917
Three Studies of a Dancer
ca. 1880
Black, pink, and white pastel on light brown paper.
18 13/16 x 25 inches (478 x 635 mm)
Thaw Collection.
2001.12
Exhibition label: 

The three studies on this sheet depict the teenage dancer Marie van Goethem and were produced in preparation for Degas’s celebrated wax sculpture Little Dancer, Fourteen Years Old (National Gallery, Washington, DC). When that work was shown at the sixth Impressionist exhibition of 1881, the artist’s inclusion of a wig and a fabric bodice and skirt caused a sensation. Degas made numerous studies of Marie between 1878 and 1880. Here he portrayed her from three different angles, attempting to understand the figure in the round in preparation for sculpting it. As the chalk strokes show, her foreshortened left foot posed a problem when seen from behind, as did her bent arms in profile.

Inscription: 
Signed in black pastel at upper right corner, "Degas".
Provenance: 
Degas atelier (Lugt 586bis); Jacques Doucet, Paris; his sale, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 28 December 1917, lot 79, repr.; André Wormser, Paris; Walter Feilchenfeldt, Zurich; Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw, New York.
Description: 

One of Degas' principal concerns as a draftsman was analyzing the movements and gestures of the female body. The three studies on this sheet depict the teenage dancer Marie van Goethem and were produced in preparation for the celebrated wax sculpture Little Dancer, Fourteen Years Old. The sculpture was briefly exhibited at the 1881 Salon, where the artist's inclusion of a wig and a fabric bodice and skirt caused a sensation.

Degas made numerous studies of Marie between 1878 and 1880. Here the artist studied her from three different angles, attempting to understand the figure in the round in preparation for sculpting it. As the chalk strokes show, her foreshortened left foot posed a problem when seen from behind, as did her bent arms in profile.

Notes: 

This large-scale work is one of Degas's studies made over a two-year period between 1878 and 1880 for the celebrated sculpture in wax "Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans", which he exhibited at the Salon in 1881.

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